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Division III adopts new football preseason format

Delegates also vote for mandatory student-athlete graduation rate reporting, social media deregulation

After nearly two years of debate, the Division III football preseason has been reshaped to better accommodate the elimination of two-a-day practices.  

During Saturday’s Division III Business Session at the 2019 NCAA Convention in Orlando, Florida, members voted to establish that the first permissible practice date in football will be 23 days before a school’s first game. By vote, the proposal was amended to account for schools that hold their first game on the Thursday of the opening weekend. In those instances, the first practice can be held 23 days before the following Friday. The change will be effective for the 2019 football season.

The proposal garnered significant support from members, with 332 voting in favor and only 41 against. It marked a sharp reverse from last year, when a similar proposal was defeated at the 2018 Convention.

The discussion of the need to recalibrate the football preseason began after two-a-days were eliminated in April 2017 to align the division’s rules with the year-round football practice contact recommendations developed by the NCAA Sport Science Institute and leading scientific and sports medicine organizations.

The new legislation also mandates that a day off from physical activity must be provided during each week of the preseason after the five-day acclimatization period. (As a result, total permissible practice days would be capped at 21.)

Student-athlete graduation rate reporting

Division III members also voted in favor of a proposal that will require Division III schools to report student-athlete graduation rates by June 1 every year. The first reports will be due June 1, 2020.

The data — not for public release — will permit schools, via the NCAA Institutional Performance Program, to conduct thorough self-evaluations and benchmark against data from other schools.  It also will serve as the basis for evidence-based best practices designed to help cohorts of student-athletes whose graduation rates are found to be trailing those of their peers.

Acclimatization proposal

Terry Small, commissioner of the New Jersey Athletic Conference, moved to refer a proposal sponsored by his conference and the City University of New York Athletic Conference to the NCAA governance structure. The proposal would have established a three-day acclimatization period in field hockey and soccer. Rather than face a Convention vote, Small asked that members refer it to the relevant committees for further refinement and consideration, including the possible inclusion of other sports. Delegates voted in favor of the referral, and the NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports, among other committees, will discuss the concept in the coming year.

Social media deregulation

Members also adopted a proposal that would permit athletics department staff members, including coaches, to publicly act on content posted by prospective student-athletes on social media, such as favoriting or republishing a post. The new rules, effective immediately, will also allow coaches to friend or follow prospective student-athletes on social media platforms. The change makes the relevant DIII legislation more consistent with standards set in Divisions I and II.

A full list of voting results at the 2019 Division III Business Session follows:

Read here for more details on the proposals.

  • Establish new football start date (including amendment relevant to Thursday contests): Adopted (332-41); effective Aug. 1, 2019.
  • Establish three-day acclimatization period in field hockey and soccer: Referred (442-31) to NCAA Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports and the Division III Management Council.
  • Mandatory student-athlete graduation rate reporting: Adopted (421-55); effective Aug. 1, 2019 (first report is due June 1, 2020).
  • Permit pre-enrollment educational expenses: Adopted (464-10); effective Aug. 1, 2019.
  • Expand exemption regarding experiential learning requirement: Adopted (469-2); effective Aug. 1, 2019.
  • Deregulate social media restrictions: Adopted (391-82); effective immediately.